Sky Sports Super Sunday
BSkyB have four of the six packages to broadcast live Premier League games to the UK market. This includes the first pick on every weekend and a vast majority of second picks as well. This enables them to guarantee that all the big games are on Sky and not on their broadcast partner Setanta Sports.
Sky won the contract for the new Premier League when it was launched in 1992. It had a monopoly on the Premiership until just last season when the EU got involved. The front team though on Sky’s flagship programme hasn’t changed much throughout its run though. Here is our review of the show.
Presenters: Richard Keys & Jeff Stelling
Richard Keys has anchored all Sky’s major football coverage since its inception. A classy front-man who has settled into the role after a tough couple of years to open up. He is now a genuine 5* presenter who is extremely comfortable with the show and surroundings. There is not a better presenter of live football coverage in the UK and that is quite a statement considering the top notch ones around.
Jeff Stelling is known mostly for his quite excellent work on Gillette Soccer Saturday every Saturday afternoon. His impressive displays there and the disappointment of Ian Payne as a TV presenter has led Stelling to become a presenter on live football. Whilst Richard Keys is still firmly the #1 with the network, Stelling will present games when there are games on more than one channel. Clearly a star on the rise who has turned down overtures from ITV to front their football coverage on more than occasion.
Commentators: Martin Tyler, Rob Hawthorne, Alan Parry and Ian Darke
Martin Tyler is the #1 at Sky doing the majority of big games. Having done Chelsea v Manchester United as well as both sides games on Matchday 37 (Manchester United v West Ham United and Newcastle United v Chelsea) his position not in question. He has a long and distinguished pedigree of commentating and has been the voice of the Premiership. Many see Tyler as the cream of the crop as far as commentating goes but I think there are one or two that can match him.
Ian Darke was the voice of Monday Night Football for years. He moved away from football with Sky’s increasing boxing output but over the past few years has returned to covering both sports. His style is one that I love listening to and he got my Commentary of the Year last year with his performance in the Everton 2-3 Chelsea game live on Sky Sports. Widely seen as the fourth man out of the four – Darke is seen by Sky to be the perennial ‘safe pair of hands’.
Rob Hawthorne has battled with Martin Tyler for the top spot. He even got the memorable 2005 Champions League Cup Final in Istanbul, the night when Liverpool came back from a 3-0 Half-Time deficit to inflict penalty agony to AC Milan. With both Parry (Athletics) and Darke (Boxing) having other sports to cover, Hawthorne is seemingly seen by his bosses as the clear number two when it comes to football, being the most commonly used alternate to Martin Tyler in big Super Sunday games. Hawthorne has clearly secured the #2 spot on football at Sky despite being the worst of the big four.
Alan Parry has been about the block having commentated on football for the Beeb, ITV and since the Autumn of 1996, Sky. Parry is another very solid pair of hands who has a distinguished voice. He is a renowned supporter of Liverpool and his not covered a Liverpool game in a long while, despite Sky’s happiness to allow Portsmouth supporter Ian Darke to cover Pompey games. Parry will pretty much always have a good game and was given the Barcelona v Manchester United game at the Nou Camp this season, again showing how highly he is rated by the network.
Co-Commentators: Andy Gray & Alan Smith
Andy Gray is by far and away the most recognisable co-commentator covering football today. The former Scotland international joined Sky in 1990 and has sat in the #2 seat behind the microphone for pretty much every big game the network have covered. It has been reported in the media that he earns around half a million pounds a year for his work on Sky television. Not one to mince his words and form strong opinions, he has a good insight to the game and his voice has become synonymous with football on Sky.
Alan Smith has one of the most boring and monotone voices around the co-commenting world – however he is still one of the best. I rate his insight as the best around and he sees things quicker than other analysts – even Andy Gray. His rise up the ranks over the past couple of years has shown his sharp footballing knowledge is appreciated by the powers that be at Sky.
Touchline Reporter: Geoff Shreeves
Geoff Shreeves joined Claire Tomlinson as a touchline report for Sky in 1999 and quickly moved into the role full-time. He has quickly become a regular part of the Sky football family and is now on show at every big Sky game like Keys and Gray. Shreeves seems to have the respect of all the managers, getting the interviews with a smile on their faces. Certainly beats his counterparts on the other channels with ease.
Pundit: Jamie Redknapp
Jamie Redknapp has joined Sky in the past couple of years and joins Richard Keys in the studio for most big games. Widely liked amongst the football fraternity although his bias towards Liverpool and Portsmouth (due to his dad being the manager) has annoyed more than one viewer. Has a good knowledge and is pretty articulate for a former football player. Yet another good point for Sky’s football coverage.
There are several other guest pundits that join on a rotation basis but Redknapp is the only regular.
Sky are the elite when it comes to live football coverage, slick, with a range of commentators and co-commentators. The presentation is always seamless with good packages and promos. You can see why fans like their coverage and I fully expect them to dominate the live football market for the foreseeable future.